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Niko Echebarria

Travel Designer

Niko Echebarria

I first visited Latin America on a school trip to Bolivia, where I spent some time volunteering for a charity that rescues children from the streets. It was beautiful, intense, and a completely compelling experience for a 15-year-old. I have since returned nearly a dozen times and each time fall more and more in love with this incredible continent. It has so much to offer, from vibrant cities, to dense jungles and breath-taking beaches. It would be easy to spend a lifetime exploring and see but a small fraction of what it has to offer.

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Hey Niko, tell us about yourself.

I’m Niko (Nikole) and I’m originally from Bilbao in the north of Spain. From a very young age I started travelling, and it has become my way of life. I was born an explorer, and I love discovering new places, new cultures, new people.  Aside from the travelling bug, which I picked up from my father, one of my favourite hobbies growing up was looking at other people’s houses (as the daughter of a great interior designer it was inevitable!), so I decided to study interior architecture in Madrid. When I finished, I worked as an interior designer – until 2017 when I went to Kenya on holiday and decided to move there. I fell completely in love with the culture, the country, the colours, the smells… I had also lived for a while in New York, an incredible experience, but for me, nothing compared to Kenya and India that followed. Nowadays I am based in Mexico. There is something about these countries which have a daily mentality that I find more grounded and inspiring. Less stress, less competition, more presence.

You have a clothing line, BAKAR. How did that begin? 

BAKAR is a combination of my two passions, travel and design. I started the brand when I temporarily moved to a small island called Lamu in Kenya. I worked on an architectural project there, with a local partner. During my stay I did not find it easy to find clothes. The main religion on the island is Islam so, as a woman, my knees and shoulders were required to be covered, but the weather was very hot. I started making my own dresses, and people started to ask where I bought them from, so I decided to make some more pieces to sell. The brand started getting bigger and that’s when I decided to reinvest the money I earned from the architectural project, to go to Senegal researching for BAKAR as I heard the colours and dyes in West Africa were amazing.

Back in Kenya, I had to find a place to manufacture the pieces, and I found a beautiful project empowering women in very difficult circumstances in Kitengela, an hour away from Nairobi. I did my first line with them. After that I decided to go back to Spain and look for a pattern maker who could help me develop more designs. While developing the patterns, I kept travelling for inspiration, new techniques, new patterns, and ended up in Rajasthan India. Here, my love affair with India began, where I spent many months a year, working and travelling. I learned about block printing, screen printing, waving, and other fabric printing techniques. Today I design my own prints and colourways.

Why did you choose Mexico for your next adventure? What is your life there like?

I chose Mexico for many reasons, the first being that when I arrived people were very warm, and super welcoming.  But the main reason was that I love the contrast between contemporary, cosmopolitan, and also the slower pace and more authentic lifestyle I can enjoy here. I live in a mix between India, Kenya, Morocco on the one hand and Madrid, London, New York on the other. Big modern cities versus old traditional ones. So many people come here from around the world, the mix is amazing. But at the same time there is a relaxed feeling about it, not like in other big cities where everything happens at a fast pace, and there is a pressure to become someone, to stand out. Life is really focused on work in many of the cities I have previously lived in, and there is not much time left for friends and family. Here in Mexico City there is no need to plan things days or weeks in advance, things just happen. It’s a huge city, but if you want to see someone for lunch or a coffee it is pretty easy. I love the food trucks which are everywhere and I love when a lot of the daily life happens outdoors, like in India. The smells, the colours, the scenes, I find they captivate all my senses. Another reason is that travelling around Mexico is very easy, helped by the great weather all year around. I can choose from mountains to beaches, lagoons or deserts. There are so many options!


You have just stayed at Cuixmala, on the Jalisco coast. How was the experience? What did a typical day look like? 

That place is an absolute paradise. I have travelled and seen many places in the world, from luxurious to backpacking, and everything in between, but very few places like Cuixmala. For me it was like travelling to all my favourite places in the world but having them all in one place. The buildings reminded me of India, and a bit of Spain ↕–  the main building was in fact inspired by La Alhambra in Granada. Having zebras, antelopes, and crocodiles  only makes the place more magical. Like being suddenly in Africa. The colour of the buildings, the tuk-tuks, it is a mesmerising place. The pool by the beach is like it is taken from a Wes Anderson movie. The colour palette is beautiful.The beach bar, with the small islands for snorkelling, is beautiful. The food is fresh and magnificent. It is reached by a flight to Manzanillo, followed by a drive for a little over an hour to reach the entrance of the hotel. The landscape gets better and better, as you drive through this natural paradise with incredible buildings dotted here and thereIt is out of this world. A fantasy by the sea! The service and the staff are  perfect.

Imagine you are planning a honeymoon in Mexico for a close friend. What would you arrange for them? 

I would include a little mix of everything. I think the perfect honeymoon in Mexico would include a blend of adventure, relaxation, and sightseeing.I would start by spending a few days in Mexico City, discovering museums, galleries, the architecture, restaurants, the historical centre, and the parks. There is so much to do in this city. Then some time in nature up in the mountains, with a stay in a typical hacienda, where you can hike, horse ride, and enjoy the charming setting, followed by a road trip through the landscapes of rural Mexico. At the end of the honeymoon I would choose from the thousands of miles of beautiful coastline that this country has to offer. To finish the trip, I would recommend a stay by a luxury and peaceful unexplored beach for some days to relax and return home renewed.


What is the ultimate packing list when travelling to Mexico?

I would always recommend taking your BAKAR outfits  with you, of course! Easy, comfy, colourful and useful for any occasion. Don’t forget mosquito repellent, sunscreen, a great hat, a book, and hiking shoes.

Tequila or Mezcal?

Mezcal.  I must say it took me a while to enjoy it, but now I am a big fan.

Mexico is a fascinating country for anyone interested in art and design. What have been your highlights?

Casa Organica by Javier Senosian was mind blowing, I never saw something so crazy before. It is here in Mexico City and you can book visits. Also all the Barragan buildings are so beautiful.The anthropological museum, Tamayo, Jumex, there are so many highlights it is very difficult to choose.

What are your favourite Mexican expressions?

Esta cañón. (It’s complicated) Andar clavado. (Nailed it!) Me vale madre. (I don’t care!)

Can we expect some Mexican influence in your next BAKAR collection?

Definitely! I think all the colours I have seen  in my travels around Mexico will be embodied in the new prints. Watch this space!